The Biggest Loser: Fat Friendships

If our final 10 Biggest Loser contestants proved anything last night, it's that they're a sentimental bunch. These are not the usual back-biting, double-crossing folks we have become accustomed to on reality TV.

The episode started with some close-up interviews, mostly of Melissa expressing disbelief at how naïve the rest of the contestants are—what with all their contemptible friendship and communal spirit. But when it ended, it was essentially a group Kumbaya sing-along.

The Button
The immunity challenge, as announced by the shockingly-charmless-but-always-shiny Allison, was unprecedented in the history of the Biggest Loser (bells, whistles, fireworks!): The contestants had to compete to lose 2 percent of their body weight. They were each given a laminated card to wear around their necks that announced the number of pounds they would have to lose. At any point during the week, they could push a button—which set off a fire station-like alarm and light show—and weigh-in. But each person had only one chance, and the first person to lose the 2 percent would win immunity. As Ashley put it, “You don’t want someone to beat you, but you don’t want to jump the gun.” Oh, the drama.

Enter the new girl, Victoria, who broke the boredom by pushing the button on Day 2. Day 2? Girl, there is no way you have lost 6 pounds in two days.

And lo and behold, she didn’t. A measly three pounds. All the other contestants clapped for her, but you could tell everyone was a bit chagrined by her newbie over-eagerness. It was embarrassing.

On Day 4, after some Melissa vs. Sam tension, it was Sam who won immunity by not only losing the 2 percent but by trouncing it with a 10-pound loss. Much fist pumping and chest pounding followed.

He’s Not Heavy, He’s My Uncle
The next challenge earned the winner a two-week, all-expenses-paid trip to Fitness Ridge. The loser would suffer a 1-pound disadvantage at weigh-in.

Everyone had to dive for 100 one-pound weights at the bottom of the pool, and then swim or walk them back to a box at the other side. They could only carry two pounds at a time, but once they finished, they could help other people by carrying their weights for them.

Sunshine beat Sam by a millisecond, and then they both jumped in, without pause, to help O’Neal, who Sam and Koli call “Unc.” As each contestant finished, they started to help their fellow players. Once Uncle was safe, they helped Mike. And in the end it was Melissa who lost the challenge, not because she was particularly slow but because no one felt particularly inclined to help her. She’s a game player, but she has no allies.

Game Over
Melissa’s flawed strategy really showed during the elimination vote. She and Drea had fallen below the yellow line. It seemed obvious that Melissa would go. No one likes her; she’s made that her goal.

But then she made a rather convincing plea for herself. Drea did the usual sob story about how she was just discovering herself as a woman and how she needed to stay to see something through for the first time in her life.

Enter Melissa, hardnosed lawyer. She did not weep or appeal to emotion. Instead she established that each of them did indeed want to be in the final four and then laid out a logical case for why she could help them get there. “I can’t beat you,” she said. “Every week I will be below the yellow line and you can just pick off whoever is down there with me, one by one.”

It’s not a bad strategy, except that she totally misjudged her audience. As I said, this is a sentimental group, an ethical group, a proud group. If they win, they want to win by pure effort and hard work. Not a single person voted for Drea.

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